The Internet is ripe with all sorts of life advice. Listicles like “Seven Secrets to Eternal Happiness” promise, well, eternal happiness if we just follow their simple secrets. I don’t profess to know all seven secrets or actually any of the secrets they delineate, because I never take the time to read them. Instead, I prefer to focus on one secret that I know will for sure lead to my happiness. Catching fish makes me happy every time! That’s no secret for many of you I’d bet as well.

I could expand this by replacing “catching fish” with “success outdoors” because, statistically speaking, most anglers at least dabble in hunting and vice versa. A high percentage of the secrets to success cross over from fishing to hunting, such that habits formed on the water or in the field benefit the other pursuit equally. I’m not a band-wagoning type of guy, but since I’ve spent 43 years of my life in search of fish or game, including professionally for the last 15, I’ve gleaned a few secrets I think will help you achieve more consistent outdoor success and thus eternal happiness.

For the record, these are not secrets that I’ve learned only through my own success, rather, they are habits that I’ve observed in other very successful outdoorsmen and women I’ve had the pleasure of spending time outdoors with. They represent commonalities that I’ve incorporated in my own adventures and that have subsequently led to more personal success and are therefore worth sharing with you. And therein lies the first of the four secrets.

Consistently successful outdoorsmen learn something from everyone they spend time afield with. It matters not if those people are less experienced or successful; there is always something to be learned, even if it’s what not to do. Newbies especially come at things with naive eyes and fewer preconceived notions. That can lead to unexpected success, which is obviously a potential learning experience or predictable failure which confirms and strengthens something the experienced outdoorsman already knew. Consistently successful folks are humble enough to learn regardless of the teacher’s credentials.

Along similar lines, another secret is the power of diligent observation. Consistently successful outdoorsmen are very, very observant. While focus is often important as well, the very best anglers or hunters remain peripherally aware of everything that is going on around them at all times. The hardest part of me hosting Fishful Thinker TV (which we never script or re-take or even practice for ahead of time because we prefer to film it as I solve the day’s fishing puzzle for reality), is remaining focused enough to fish well while I’m observing what’s going on in the environment I’m trying to figure out and addressing the camera all at once. I can easily do two of those tasks at a time; three gets tricky and it takes all three for us to make a good show.

Funny thing is, when we have show guests, it is common for them to stop fishing to answer a question on camera because they are so screwed into their successful habit of fishing and observing that they can’t answer the question. So, they stop fishing to answer the question, then go back to what they normally do when no cameras are around - observe their environment and fish accordingly. That’s a hint.

It is not enough to simply observe. It is important to consider the effects of whatever you observe on what you need to do to succeed. Did the subtle breeze change direction or perhaps the air temp dropped significantly in the last few minutes? Perhaps the roosting seagulls are now stirring. It could be any of a gillion things. Regardless, changes in your environment need to be observed and thoughtfully considered in your approach.

Another trait of successful outdoorsmen is they go forth with an open mind for the day, every day. No two days afield are the same and your quarry is simple-minded and thus reacts to whatever they face at the moment. Successful anglers and hunters do the same. It matters not where you caught them or what lure they liked the last time you were out. Today is a new day with new conditions and perhaps even a new playing field. Consistent anglers start fresh every time. That is not to say they disregard their prior experience; they definitely don’t. They simply use that experience as a starting point or baseline and react from there. Hard-headed hunters or anglers don’t succeed consistently.

Lastly, consistently successful outdoorsmen and women habitually prepare with purpose. They especially prepare their equipment to a very high level. St Croix makes 14 separate models in their Bass X model line alone. Why? So skilled anglers can choose exactly the right one for their application, not one that is close enough. Abu Garcia does the same with reels and the concept continues throughout our tackle. Prepare your weapons with an eye for the details.

Preparation continues in clothing. Consistently successful outdoors folks dress for success or at least comfort, which leads to success. They are prepared for whatever Mother Nature throws at them, so that they can focus and observe without the distraction discomfort brings.

So, my listical is titled, “The Four Habits of Successful Outdoorsmen” and I promise if you take them to heart, you’ll experience eternal happiness. Take that, Internet!